Wahoo KICKR Bike Review
A young family and long days running a consulting business mean that Zwift and TrainerRoad have long been key parts of my mid-week training regime. I'm also an ambassador for a bike brand and lead their Zwift rides on Saturdays. All up I'm clocking over 10,000km indoors a year to maintain fitness for playing outside, preferably on the gravel bike, and finding new roads and rivers to cross.
In short, I'm pretty impressed with the KICKR bike. It feels very natural to ride, the shifting feels intuitive mirroring the Di2 button positions and has great feedback through the 'drive train' meaning it's still tactile and somewhat mechanical - the kind of shifting you wish you had in real life that doesn't care how much load you are putting on the pedals. Being able to customize the chainrings, cassette, and shifting style is a boon for being able to simply switch between flat crit type gearing to wider range climbing setups just by changing profiles within the wahoo app. Oh, and the Gates belt drive train without the noise of a derailleur and chain is very smooth and very quiet.
I had read that of the four choices of smart bikes the KICKR bike moved more and I'm glad of this, it was a feature I liked about the TACX Neo and I note that the latest generation KICKR trainers now also include a bit of movement. For me, time training indoors needs to feel natural as much as it can and there needs to be movement otherwise it's your body, or more likely your nether regions that take the toll. There's a little movement, but it never feels fragile and it feels very good sprinting. Combined with the seamless shifting you can jump hard and just keep feeding its gears under any load.
Switching over from a Generation 1 Neo the biggest thing I noticed was the improved ability to attack and sprint, I've been unable to upset the unit and it's pretty much always a step ahead of me. It's hard to quantify road feel but this does feel natural and the combination of the tilt and resistance changes make the feeling of gradient changes more natural and make for a much less tedious indoor session. In my first rides, I set personal bests on several climbs simply due to climbing in a more powerful position and feeling like there was more to work against. This translates well to rolling roads and short pinches where you would get out of the saddle briefly to maintain momentum, and you mirror the same behavior indoors.
In contrast to the other smart bikes, there's no phone holder, etc. as I guess Wahoo wants you to buy a KICKR desk but this was no stress for me, I already used a Quadlock on my indoor setup and as the KICKR bike uses a normal stem and bars I could just switch this over. There's a USB port under the head tube so I added a charging cable for my phone so I never run out of charge for the all-important Spotify, discord, and Zwift companion apps.
Key indoor training tip BIG FANS - I use KASA smart plugs ($34NZ) to trigger my two fans from their iOS app, I have my Neo and KICKR on these too so I can set them to turn off after a warm down period.
- Tilt function simulating inclines and position changes.
- Shifters are very realistic as is the shifter feel and feedback.
- Massively adjustable and the app allows you to save different bike profiles including measurements as well as shifter configuration.
- Zwift Power Up (PU) is triggered by a button at top of the right shifter - perfect for sprinting/attacking.
- Zwift FutureWorks steering is via two buttons on the inside of the shifters.
- Standard saddle had to go, survived the first trail ride out of the box and no further, switched out for a Specialized Romin!
- The stock bars and tape are good but I'll swap these out eventually to a bar identical to my other bikes.
- At very low cadence (under 50) there's a slight shudder but I'm trying out a beta firmware that addresses this. The shudder was never an issue in workouts / ERG mode etc.